AGOA should go beyond market access: PM Hailemariam

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) should go beyond providing market access to beneficial countries.

Hailemariam, who is also current chairperson of the African Union (AU), made the remark while opening a ministerial forum    of the AGOA 2013 Forum at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

“The enhanced AGOA envisaged for the next two decades should go beyond market access by strengthening technical assistance and capacity building initiatives to African entrepreneurs and businesses,” Hailemariam said.

The key issue during this year’s forum is the extension of AGOA, now set to expire in 2015. The act has been extended three times before and there have been indications from the US side of further extension.

However, analysts say beneficiary countries have not been able to utilize the full potential of AGOA over the last 13 years. This is mainly attributed to supply side constraints.

“We in Ethiopia are not only encouraged by the promise that the extension of AGOA will hold for us, but we are also planning for the long run,” Hailemariam said adding that Ethiopia is in the process of developing a National AGOA Response Strategy.
The strategy, he explained, will identify key supply side constraints that impede the performance of the export sector and suggest possible interventions.

According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Trade, the country’s export to the US has been growing by about 80 percent over the last 12 years. AGOA exports from Ethiopia have been limited to few products, mainly in apparel and leather sectors.

“We cannot and should not settle for this,” Kebede Chane, minister of trade, said in his remark during the ministerial summit. “It is high time that we redouble our efforts to harness the potential that AGOA represents.”

Kebede said Ethiopia have been able to lay a strong foundation for the strategic US-Africa partnership over the last decade.
“In order for AGOA to play its primiary objective of helping African countries achieve sustainable economic transformation, it should be extended for a period of at least 15 to 20 years,” Kebede said.

AGOA, which was first signed into law by former US president Bill Clinton in 2000, offers incentives for eligible countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to export their goods to the US markets duty-free. Currently, there are 39 AGOA-eligible African countries.
The AGOA 2013 Forum is being held under the theme “Sustainable Transformation through Trade and Technology.”

Photo: WIC

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